Photography 101: Swarm

Many of us had moments when we were in a crowded place and the sheer volume of people was just too much to handle. But I challenge that most of us don’t really know what “too much” truly is until we travel to a developing country where safety codes are meager if they even exist.

Admit it. When we read the news about horrific tragedies such as a stampeded killed more people than the cause of the stampede¬†itself, some of us wonder how that’s even possible. Filing out of a door in an orderly manner is something we’ve been doing all our lives, right?

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Traveling and living in developing countries gave me perspective and understanding how those events happen. As mentioned, in many of these places crowd control is not a known discipline. Not in terms of movement and flow. More often, any policing would be focused on thugs, crime, and disorderly behavior. The idea of tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands depending on the event, needing to move fluidly is not necessarily a priority.

One event where I and my traveling companions got seriously concerned about our safety sole because of the crowd was during the Chinese New Year celebration in Chinatown of Bangkok, Thailand. One end of the street where the festivities took place was completely taken up by the stage, with a narrow sidewalk on one side for exit and entering if you were to approach that end. The sides of the streets were completely taken up by vendor stalls. We were wrapping up our evening, trying to get out as the crowd ballooned in size from the after-work and Friday evening crowd.

Another thing about these cultures is there is no sense of queuing. A lot of the mentality if focused on grabbing your space because no one was going to offer it if you just stood by. There is no giving half of the space for traffic going the opposite direction. Crowds do not have a sense of courtesy or unspoken traffic flow rules. Free space is space to be claimed. So people started pushing forward in a narrow sidewalk. A building wall on one side, a chain link fence on the other.

We were pushing, body to body for space. Even if we didn’t want to move, we were being pushed from behind. It took almost half an hour to get through ten feet of distance. When we finally broke free, we admitted to each other that we each were eyeing the chain link fence in case we needed to hang on in an event of a stampede.

After that, almost any crowd in the Western countries pales in comparison.

 

Santorini Smiles

As what I call my “Do-Over sunny get away” I went to Santorini, Greece. The Greek Islands never really appealed to me.. they struck me as cliche, build solely for tourists these days. But it was the perfect therapy.

I was sitting in a restaurant for a late lunch, on a day that was also Greek Orthodox Sunday. Enjoying the quiet, digesting a phenomenal bowl of mussels and savoring a glass of white wine. The only other occupied table was being assembled to stretch across the entire length of the restaurant balcony. Someone approached me and insisted I join them for a glass of wine. It’s Easter, he said, and they feel very uncomfortable having me eat on my own on this special holiday. Please join then for a glass of wine to celebrate.

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Three courses, countless glasses of wine later, I finally excused myself. They had ended up serving me their share of the Easter lunch. I wasn’t the only invitee.. Italian, Austrian, and this American.. they had opened their tables to their visitors and friends.

From mountaintops…

I celebrated my 30th birthday in grand style.. by rewarding myself with a ten-day vacation in a whole other continent with a girlfriend. And reminded myself that I’m still young, healthy, strong, and loving life by climbing up Egypt’s highest peak, Mount Katherine.

And, boy, was I hurting up there! By the last bit of the ascent, I could barely keep up with my 61 year-old guide who probably weighed 95 pounds soaking wet and whose soles were about to fall off his ancient shoes.

The view was absolutely gorgeous. No green, but the variation of stone, terrain colors, lava rock, made it all awesome when looking from the top. This self-pic is just beyond cool. I didn’t expect to capture so much detail.